Drapes specialists J&C Joel were commissioned by historical theatre consultants Theatre Search to create and supply a completely customized set of drapes for the newly refurbished Redditch Palace Theatre in Worcestershire, England.
Designed by renowned architect Bertie Crewe and completed in 1913, the theatre has reopened as a major receiving house following a £4 million facelift, with many of its original features restored to their original splendor.
The project was managed for Sowerby Bridge, England-based J&C Joel by contracts director Mark Taylor, who worked closely with Theatre Search’s David Wilmore, main contractors Sapcote, and architects Samsome Hall.
A major aim of the project was to restore the building to its original form. However, there were precious few illustrations or visual references available showing how the theatre draping and interior would have initially looked. By researching other similar period buildings, Taylor and Wilmore proposed a list of what they considered authentic and accurate decor and a plan on how to replicate the unique Bertie Crewe style with the new drapes.
A pair of 9m wide by 5m long proscenium curtains, along with all the other drapes supplied, are made from a rich, custom-created red mohair velour, specially woven and dyed for this contract using traditional methods. The rich red and gold trim colors were chosen to enhance the new auditorium seating.
Above the proscenium curtains is a matching pelmet measuring 7m wide by 2m long. There’s also a stage skirt, four sets of box curtains for the circle and two sets for the stalls, plus curtains for false boxes both sides of the auditorium – all of which provide a real sense of historical atmosphere.
At J&C Joel’s, the fabric manufacturer and drape assembly was overseen by drapery manager Neil Cartwright. Such were the complexities of the design, that the process took nine weeks from commencement of the contract to the fabric being woven, dyed, and manufactured.
The bottom section of the proscenium curtains features an intricate silk appliqué frieze, matching the vertical frieze running around the inside face of the proscenium arch. Containing several hundred elaborate elements, this was hand sewn by Cartwright, taking two and a half weeks of constant and intensive work.
All the tassels and fringes for the box curtains were also specially made from wool spun using traditional methods. J&C Joel paid meticulous attention to detail, discussing the options extensively with David Wilmore in terms of what could be achieved utilising today’s available hand processes.
“Our reputation for historical replication work was absolutely on the line with this one,” confirms Mark Taylor. “I am really proud of the teamwork and effort that went into achieving an excellent and noteworthy end result.”